Updated: Jan 17, 2019
Firstly, what is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and a healthy immune system.
The three sources of this vitamin are found in food, supplements or exposure to the sun’s UVB radiation. It is well known -especially in Australia, that too much exposure to UV radiation can be incredibly harmful contributing to an increased chance of skin cancers, premature skin ageing and weakened immune system.
The Skin Cancer Foundation states that we should obtain the recommended daily dose of 600IU through a combination of these three sources.
Vitamin D and the sun
In Australia, the sun is our main source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced when our skin is exposed to UVB rays. However with the Vitamin D deficiency dilemma constantly in the headlines people are exposing themselves to more UV exposure than is actually needed.
The patients we see are often confused to how much time they actually need to spend in the sun to maintain adequate Vitamin D levels. Required exposure times vary with skin type, area of skin exposed, season and location.
Generally- darker skin types require 3-6 times more exposure time than moderately fair skin types. Exposure through the hands and arms are deemed adequate areas for successful Vitamin D production.
Please see the below table as a guide to how much exposure we should be getting on a daily basis.
Source: Vitamin D and Health in adults in Australia and New Zealand: Position Statement 2012
* The SunSmart app is a great free app available to use on your phone for the daily UV rating at real time and what sun protection is needed for the time of day and season.
Other sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D can also be sourced from your diet and supplements. Foods such as
Milk, orange juice, yoghurts, cereals, cod liver oil and oily fish(salmon, mackerel, sardines)
Over the counter supplements are readily available and very inexpensive.
Is there a thing as too much sunshine when it comes to Vitamin D production?
You might be reading this and think getting sun sounds like the simplest answer to boosting your Vitamin D levels however too much sun can do more harm than good.
Overexposure to UVB rays contributes to skin cancer but also causes the breakdown of Vitamin D in the body. After the recommended exposure times discussed in the table above- the body’s Vitamin D production reaches it’s maximum. Further exposure will not result in Vitamin D, but will instead prompt its depreciation into inactive and unusable compounds. Why risk getting skin cancer if there is no benefit of overexposure?
The Vitamin D Dilemma. [ONLINE]Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257363206_The_Vitamin_D_Dilemma[accessed Sep 03 2018].
Vitamin D- SkinCancer.org.2018. Vitamin D – SkinCancer.org. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.skincancer.org/healthy-lifestyle/vitamin-d.